Actions Speak Louder Than Words (but don’t forget to use your words)

When I first arrived to the boulevard last night, it was just me, Big Mama, and Raul, and it stayed that way for the next 30 minutes. I wondered if, in my incredibly tired state, God was giving us grace to have a chill, easy night at Broken Hearts.

Why I even let these thoughts cross my mind at this point is beyond me, since I already know when I’m most tired, the night will be best. When the streets look  empty, people seem to pop up out of the cracks by the time the Refuge service starts.

I always marvel in the power in simply showing up and God’s faithfulness to availability. When our ministry trains people on relational evangelism, three key elements are 1) Be Personal 2) Be Authentic and 3) Be Verbal.

Actions speak louder than words, and actually showing up demonstrates to others that they’re worth someone’s time. But without words – the reasoning behind our being there – it will stop at being worth another human’s time. Verbalizing that Jesus says they’re worth dying for points people to him for ultimate acceptance and hope.

Last night, a man on a hunt for drugs, stumbled into the end of our prayer time. “I just got out of jail today, that deserves an amen!” he told us. We agreed as he shared that he’d been suddenly released, expecting to be there for the next two years, but God got him out.

“You guys are f’ing cool,” he exclaimed later as we handed him pizza and water before the Bible study. He participated a bit as we went through a photo (6)creative teaching by one of our team members on getting our identity from Christ.

As we wrapped up in prayer he said, “I just want to say, as an agnostic, maybe even atheist, I was moved by this tonight.”

“What was it that moved you?” I asked him, and he explained that all of it had impacted him: The message, God’s presence, and the actions we were taking that expressed love and God’s pursuit to him. “It goes against all of my scientific factoring of things. It makes me think God might be real.”

After a few more moments of sharing previous doubts and new faith that God brought him here,  he had convinced himself God is real. “I’ve never been this close to faith before. You being out here has made this 50 year-old atheist mind do a 180, so that’s no small thing.” We told him it was God and we were simply tools and happy to play a part. He agreed.

Our friend Louie asked if he’d like to open his heart to Jesus. “Yes, I would.” He wasn’t ready to accept Christ as his Savior, he still has some working out to do, but he said he’s close. We all gathered around and prayed, and as we did, he smiled constantly and had a look of such peace, joy and excitement.

He asked if he could take a bible, we gave him contact information, and he promised he’d be back next week. In my 7 years of doing this ministry, I’ve only seen something like that about 3 or 4 times, and it makes me hunger for more.

It speaks to me of revival and the epitome of ministry and disciple-making: Prepare yourself first by being made holy. Make yourself available where people are in need and God is drawing them. Watch God touch them without any coercion, fireworks, or fancy words, as we simply show up and speak out.

Then be prepared to have the joy of salvation restored….

Please join us in praying for “Joe” in his search of God, housing, and sobriety!

Continual Surrender

The best nights on the street are the “dynamic” ones, where so many levels of significance layer upon one another that I leave unsure of how to even process or thank God or pray when I arrive home.

Last night was one of those. I’ll skip large chunks to keep this from becoming an essay, but when we finally all gathered to share prayer requests, the night took on a life of its own. One of our regulars shared about his hope to move and be closer to family, followed by oddly humorous stories of being caught up in his nephews drug deals. His dream is to move back with family, get a large home in a far more affordable location, and create a way to help people like his nephew coming in and out of jail to keep them out.

Another regular then shared about her family worries, not knowing where one of her sons is, being misled and confused by family about how her father died, and inevitably pouring tears out over the hurt, fear and loss.

Antquan questioned how we deal with these things, and conversation blew up from there amongst our friends while the rest of us sat and listened. Our friend from above advised that she needed to let those pains go and trust them with God, or else the stress would eat her up and harm her health. Another guy chimed in who follows Islam and agreed how much we have to give things to God and then move on from things we can’t change. How important it is to “let go and let God”, gazing off while mentioning his brother who died. He doesn’t typically engage much in our Refuge service, but he was playing a significant role in this conversation. IMGP0892

Talk bounced around this way for a while, how to deal and how we must trust God with these fears and losses of family. Then a woman, “Tracy” we’d met just a few weeks ago after being released from prison without a place to go showed up and shared how significant it had been to meet us, even in her hardships. She thanked the previously mentioned woman and her spouse for their support, as well as others who had shown her love and given her support.

“I still have their numbers with me and I’m so grateful for meeting them and their help”. I forget the rest of her words exactly, but essentially it was that, though she’s still not in a program, she felt the impact of people who prayed with her and sought to help her in her worst moments. People who simply cared and how that impacted her.

“I’m doing better, but I need to put down the bottle. I drink because I hurt” and proceeded to share her own family losses, those who stole from her, the father she didn’t get to say goodbye to, and the son she hasn’t seen in years and doesn’t know.

Conversation looped back around to how we deal with the hurt, and finally we all came back to scripture and the continual surrender to God of all our struggles. We then broke up into more intimate groups for prayer, and then more people joined us, ready for pizza and Bible study.

“Tracy” offered to pray for the food, and it went on record for the longest BH prayer thus far. “I was intoxicated when I came here, but now I’m sober, God you did that” and while it seemed a bit repetitive and a slight ramble, it actually brought me to tears. She cried out to God like I wish I did more often. Her hurts over seeing kids on the street selling themselves and pleading with God for their parents to accept them and for them to go home, from a mother’s heart, reflected my own repetitive cries to God on their behalf.

Her desperation for something different, for personal healing, and the healing of the streets was so pure and true, I felt like I had a sister who prays for the brokenness of the city, and a daughter of God I couldn’t imagine that He’d turn down  in her tears. There is something powerful about someone who’s been in prison, lost people, done “bad stuff” and should be tough and numb to it, weep over the world of which she’s a part. The kids sitting next to her, involved in drugs and prostitution definitely noticed, and her passion in that moment were far more influential than I think some of ours could ever be.

We then dove into the Bible study and had more lively discussion, and didn’t end until around 2am, about 45 minutes later than usual.

The things I heard, and the dynamics last night, were beautiful and rare. It was not just going through the motions, it was personal and intense and meaningful. I could barely remember how exhausted I’d been that night before coming out, wishing I could just go to bed. As usual, I left revived, excited about what God is doing, and reminded that people want his presence, and to know that someone cares.

It’s the Little Things that Make a Big Difference

After a discussion in the Broken Hearts office today, I thought the underlying topic would be helpful to share. Because we (BH, ministries, community development organizations) highlight the importance of relationship incessantly. Yet I’m sure many people see homelessness or drug addiction and think, “Really? Relationship is gonna fix that? How?”

It’s really hard to convince people that relationship (particularly when based from relationship with Jesus) has more impact than handing out food or giving someone money or housing alone.

Probably because transformational relationships take time and persistence for which most people don’t have the patience. Or because the breakdown of relationship at all levels as the foundation for these lifestyle problems hasn’t been understood.

So there’s a man we’ll call “Sean” who comes to the drop-in center a few times a week for classes and to meet with his case manager (who has been working with “Sean” for quite some time to convince  him to get into transitional housing).

Sean has taken to visiting me weekly to chit chat and watch music videos of old R&B and soul artists. Sean has mental illness and therefore isn’t the easiest to hold conversations with, as he operates at a much younger age than his actual.

Today his case manager shared with me his refusal to get assistance with something he needs to do and said, “Who knows, maybe you can convince him.” Then we talked about his difficult with performing normal things necessary for taking care of ourselves. Doing laundry, taking public transportation.

Someone walking or driving past Sean, without knowing anything about him, might just see homelessness and think “lazy”, “strange”, or “get a job”. But Sean can’t get a job. Sean isn’t lazy, he’s like a 7 year old trying to navigate a grown-up world alone, with mental illness that keeps him from remembering exactly how to do laundry.

So what does this have to do with relationship? His case manager went on to tell me about the times he gave him a food gift certificate, but Sean wouldn’t brave ordering food unless someone was with him. He’s never done laundry unless his case manager was helping him. He can’t get on a bus without someone by his side. 019

I’m passionate about getting the Church connected with people in these situations to simply be their friends. Why?  A friend can make the difference between Sean staying healthy, accomplishing errands, and having a home. All he needs is someone to be there and help him. Without that, he would have remained on the street. Without ongoing relationship, he could go back. And from a Christian perspective, friends who can help fill in gaps of broken relationships and lead him to the ultimate relationship (with God) can transform his life.

Sean has found friends at the drop-in center, people who dance, watch music videos, order Subway, and decorate t-shirts together. Add a few resources and that’s all it takes.

Not that hard, right??